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On Myanmar, Ban “Notes” Calls to Replace UN Envoy Nambiar, Rohingya on Margins

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 -- With the UN's envoy to Myanmar Vijay Nambiar openly refusing to speak with the press, despite a formal request from the UN correspondents' association, the only way to learn the specifics of his recent visit is to ask the Security Council diplomats he spoke to, then ask the UN to confirm.

Inner City Press on May 20 asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky why Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not acted on what even Nambiar on May 20 reported to the Council Aung San Suu Kyi has asked for: a full time replacement to Nambiar as envoy.

Nesirky replied that “the Secretary-General takes note of these suggestions, and we’ll look at them in due course.” Some wonder when the course will be considered due, given that replacement of Nambiar has been suggested for months.

On May 19 the Assistant chief of the UN refugee agency UNHCR told Inner City Press about the plight of the Rohnigya people left stateless by Myanmar. Inner City Press asked her if Nambiar, Ban's envoy to Myanmar, does anything on this issue. This she did not answer.

Inner City Press on May 20 asked Nesirky if Nambiar works at all on the issue. Without providing any specifics, Nesirky said that “obviously we would have concern for the treatment and position of any ethnic group.”

But why then did Nambiar not meet with ethnic minorities, nor speak about the violations and ending of ceasefires in their areas by the government? These are questions that Nambiar should take and answer, in the press availability now requested by the UN correspondents' association.

Nambiar last time, Press excluded, new request not shown

From the UN's May 20 transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Myanmar as well. Yesterday, Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar didn’t end up taking any questions, but a member of the Council of the United Kingdom, on the record, said that he recorded that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told him that she would like to see a full-time envoy, and the United Kingdom, as some other countries have in the past, said they too would like to see a full-time envoy, i.e., not Mr. Nambiar, who would be a part-time envoy. So I wonder, one, can you confirm that that’s what Mr. Nambiar said in the Council, given that a Council member said it? And two, what’s the Secretariat’s response to the request by the main democracy leader in Myanmar, that a full-time envoy be chosen, selected and sent?

Inner City Press: Well, Mr. Vijay Nambiar conveyed to the Security Council the gist of his conversations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD [National League for Democracy], and also conversations he had with Myanmar's other political opposition groups, ethnic nationality groups and representatives of civil society in Myanmar. And he has also said — because I know that you’ve asked a number of questions related to this, including the prisoner release — he also said that, while the initial sentence reductions and resulting release of some political prisoners is a small step in the right direction, it has been short of expectations and is insufficient. And, again, just to reiterate, during the visit, the United Nations reiterated its call for the urgent release of all political prisoners.

And also, I think it is important to note that the real test would be whether — or how quickly — the new climate can translate into a change in content in Myanmar. And it would also be important to see how the authorities concretely hold up to their own commitments and respond to the United Nations’ various suggestions over the next coming months.

Inner City Press: there was a press conference here yesterday afternoon, where an official of UNHCR was talking about stateless people and the Convention on Refugees. And she spoke about the Rohingya being repatriated to Myanmar, not being given citizenship papers. So, I wanted to, it wasn’t clear to me, maybe you’re always… you said that if something wasn’t in the statement, it doesn’t mean he didn’t work on it or didn’t discuss it, but is… does he view this problem of the… she says there is a million of them, stateless Rohingya people in Myanmar; is part of this in any way related to his mandate of good offices and if so, what does he think of the Government’s treatment of them?

Spokesperson: Well, obviously we would have concern for the treatment and position of any ethnic group. And as I mentioned, Mr. Nambiar did convey to the Security Council and outlined the conversations that he had with the various groups and individuals, including ethnic nationality groups, and of course with the authorities themselves.

Inner City Press: On this idea that both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the United Kingdom and others have said that a full-time, without… that a full-time envoy would be better suited for the job…

Spokesperson: Well, we’ve said before, because the last time there was a Group of Friends meeting, a similar suggestion was made, and we’ve said before that the Secretary-General takes note of these ideas, proposals, suggestions, and we’ll look at them in due course.

Again, some wonder when the course will be considered due, given that replacement of Nambiar has been suggested for months. Watch this site.

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As UK Calls for Myanmar UN Envoy Replacement for Nambiar, He Brushes Off Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- After the UN Security Council met Thursday about Myanmar, UN envoy Vijay Nambiar explicitly refused to answer even a single question from the Press.

  Rushing out of the Council, Nambiar made a brushing-away motion with his hand and disappeared down a corridor. This despite a standing request by the UN Correspondents Association that he hold a press conference and take questions.

   The Permanent Representative of the UK Mark Lyall Grant did speak to the Press. He recounted that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has suggested that need for a full time UN envoy, adding that the UK “has long believed that it would be good to have a permanent, full time envoy to regularly visit” Burma.

  Lyall Grant said that while Nambiar “felt the tone of what the government was doing since the election was better, more open than it had been before,” the UK sees “no effective response to key demands of international community.”

  The military dominated government has given “amnesty only just over two percent of political prisoners, there are still over two thousand.” Lyall Grant was dismissive of “taking one year off a sixty five years sentence of student leaders, and the ninety three years given to Shan community” leadership.

He added that “there  has not yet been any inclusive dialogue with opposition outside Parliament.” In the run up to Nambiar's trip, Inner City Press asked without answer if he would be meeting with ethnic minorities.

Inner City Press has previously reported calls for a full time replacement to Nambiar as envoy, by the UK along with former Security Council member Mexico and others. But Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has made no move to appoint a full time envoy, instead continuing to send his chief of staff Nambiar to Myanmar, then refusing to take questions when he comes back.

Nambiar previously seen from behind, no Qs taken

Ban Ki-moon, too, has become resistant to taking questions from the press, at least in New York. Despite multiple requests that he hold the promised monthly press conference - the last was in January, four months ago -- Ban has not held a press conference.

Since he last held a shorter stakeout, he has for example said he was “relieved that justice was done” in the killing of Osama bin Laden, a position that differs from the UN's own human rights commissioner Navi Pillay's.

Ban on May 18 granted an interview to one wire service, and used it to state that if member states want him for a second term as Secretary General, he is ready to serve.

  Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky declined Inner City Press' request for a transcript. He said he would be getting clarifications from Nambiar, but none has been given, including any UN response to the Myanmar government prohibiting reporting of ASSK's comments after meeting Nambiar, and on Myanmar's push to head ASEAN. Watch this site.

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On Myanmar, as Nambiar of UN “Neglects Justice” & Minorities, Q&A Requested

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 13 -- As UN envoy Vijay Nambiar was on his way to Myanmar earlier this week, Inner City Press asked the UN if he would meet with ethnic minority groups including the Shan, whom the government is attacking. The UN said it didn't know yet.

Now Nambiar has left Myanmar, after issuing a statement that does not mention the Shan or the ending of ceasefires. At Friday's noon UN briefing in New York, Inner City Press asked again the Nambiar take questions from the media when he returns, for example about the situation of the Shan, Karen, Rohingya and other groups, especially since his statement did not mention them.

“How do you know he didn't mention them?” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky demanded.

Well, Nambiar's statement was sent to Inner City Press by e-mail, as were various statements from human rights groups critical of Nambiar's work.

Nesirky pointed again to Nambiar's statement in Yangon, where previously even Burmese press was excluded from Nambiar's press conference.

I'll relay your requests, Nesirky said. He told Inner City Press, you don't have to rely “on NGOs.”

This was ironic because later on Friday Ban Ki-moon met with Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, who had just tweeted that Nambiar “neglects justice for war crimes.” Is Roth aware of, and did he raise, other questions about Nambiar and human rights? It's not yet known, as there's been no read out. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb .26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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